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Hugh Douglas-Pennant

Around nine years ago, Hugh Douglas-Pennant decided he wanted to join St Nic’s as a volunteer. He joined the Hospice’s then Family Support Team (now Psychological Services) but, over the years, he has had a number of different volunteer roles.

A well-known face among our Hospice teams, we asked Hugh to reflect on his experience of the Hospice and be one of our 40 Faces of St Nic’s.

Where did it begin? It was quite by chance

Hugh explains: “I came to volunteer at St Nicholas Hospice quite by chance. I came with our local Vicar to attend a Grave Talk session.

“That evening, it was mentioned they were looking for volunteers and, somehow or other, I was trained  to work with the Family Support Team, and, since then I have extended my area of interest to work on the inpatient ward and with Family Support in various roles.

“I find it is the sort of organisation that sucks you in. You get really involved and want to be more for this brilliant team.”

I think it should be 4,000 faces at least

Hugh says: “40 faces of St Nicholas Hospice, well, I think they should be about 4,000 faces, at least with St Nicholas Hospice, if we consider all of those who have worked and volunteered for this amazing organisation over the last 40 years.

“If you multiplied that with the 200 other hospices around the UK, we’re  getting at a figure of probably – close to a million people, who have spent much of their last 40 years working in this interesting, and rewarding sector.

“Caring for others is not unique to the modern times. If we go back to St Luke’s Gospel, we hear about the Good Samaritan caring for a man left on the road on the way to Jericho. The Samaritan who gave and provided for this man’s care and protection.

“Those not connected with St Nicholas Hospice often ask why would you want to work in this gloomy and sad world? Well, gloomy it never is, sad sometimes but never ever gloomy”.

“I would challenge anybody to find a more positive environment to work in than our inpatient ward. Whilst the staff are supporting people who are here for end-of-life care or symptom management, everybody looking after our patients are amazing in their positive attitude, trying to make people’s lives easier and better when they’re dealing with an exceptionally challenging situation.

“Of course, this not only encompasses our ward. Indeed, far more people are cared for in our community, by our doctors, nurses, and healthcare assistants looking after those in West Suffolk and Thetford, who need very careful attention at a difficult time in their lives.

“There are many others who work and volunteer for St Nicholas Hospice that are unsung heroes. They work in our shops, they volunteer in our donation centre sorting goods. Ensuring that we have a steady income from our shops. And, add to that, those who organise events, run, walk, and even skydive, those brave souls to raise valuable income, which is needed to run this not-cheap organisation.

What makes us want to volunteer for St Nicholas Hospice?

“Well, that’s simple, we get more out of it than we put in,” is Hugh’s answer.

“Much of what I personally do is working with those who are approaching the end of their lives or working with a member of their family, those who’ve got to face the toughest time of their life, something for which there is no rehearsal.

“Perhaps they are finding their emotions hard to cope with. By sharing those thoughts, worries, and fears, with staff and volunteers like myself, perhaps we may be able to help and ease them in their pain.


“There is no magic panacea that can make the end of our lives easy or bearable. But what I feel confident of is that St Nicholas Hospice and the staff who work here will make that journey as bearable as possible.”